SILVER SPRING, Md - On the afternoon of September 1, radical environmentalist James Lee walked into the lobby of Discovery Channel headquarters from the scorching heat with five improvised explosive and incendiary devices strapped to his body. Immediately taking three hostages, Lee engaged in a tense stand-off with police. Nearly four hours later, a police SWAT team neutralized Lee, his victims escaping with their lives.
Four months later and a little more than a block from the scene, security professionals, risk managers, and human resources personnel crowded into a room at the Silver Spring Civic Center to learn lessons from that day as well as to discuss ways to prevent and respond to incidents of workplace violence and active shooter situations.
Organized by AlliedBarton Security Services and the suburban Maryland chapter of ASIS International, the frequently repeated message of the seminar was that no workplace is immune from violence.
"It can happen to you," Allied Barton Division President Ron Rabena said. His warning was made all the more powerful by Rabena's personal experience: his father was murdered during a workplace violence incident years ago.
Within the United States, there are an average of 2 million incidents of workplace violence every year, costing businesses an estimated $70 billion a year, according to Daman Toth, a district manager at AlliedBarton. Females are especially vulnerable, with homicide the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
There is a sliver of light, however, behind these grim statistics. Since the mid-80s, workplace homicides have dropped by more than 50 percent. Toth credited this development to businesses educating, training, and preparing their employees for workplace violence incidents.
Communication is key, said Rabena, who reminded the attendees that proactive preparations for events considered unimaginable can save lives. One of the most important things a business can do, according to presenters, is get in contact with local law enforcement agencies and work together on emergency plans so employees and police know what to expect if violence erupts.